Open-road driving in an electric BMW i3: are we tripping?

Okay, so the BMW i3 is a city car, right? BMW designed it as such and has made no secret of that fact. But what if you aren’t a German living in a large city and in possession of a strong sense of propriety and common sense?

What if, for example, you are a Kiwi who decides it would be a good idea to take an electric vehicle (EV) designed specifically for city life and do a road trip the entire length of the country? She’ll be right mate, it’s a car, after all. That’s what they do, right?

Well, yes and no. But the i3 is still a BMW, remember, and that means even if it was intended specifically for urban dwelling, it is still unusually attracted to open roads and corners.

So it was that I found myself in the same BMW i3 on two different road trips. One was the first leg of an epic journey from the very bottom of New Zealand to the very top. That’s right; Bluff to Cape Reinga. The other was a smaller affair, but up north of Auckland to, erm, drink coffee.

Oh, and by the way, this was the pure electric version of the i3, not the one that packs a small two-cylinder petrol “range extender” engine. You know, the sensible one to take on a long distance road trip.

The epic road trip was part of Leading the Charge, organised by the Better NZ Trust to promote awareness of electric vehicles and clean air and stuff.

All very worthy, but let’s get that i3 out on the open road and get some coarse South Island chip seal under those skinny tyres.

Okay so yes, the i3’s ride is noticeably firm on these roads (and, indeed, most NZ highways), but it is not intrusive. Road noise over the coarse chip seal is noticeable as well, but this is more down to the fact that there is no engine noise to mask it.

Of course power is one thing the i3 doesn’t lack and it absolutely belts up to the legal open road speed limit. Close attention has to be paid to keep it on the legal side.

While the official 0-100kmh sprint is 7.2 seconds, the sheer bulging electrical torqueyness makes it feel far quicker than that.

Cruising is effortless in the i3 on the open road, with overtaking just as silently efficient as the charge up to 100kmh.

Speaking of charging, the i3 now boasts a range of around 200km; at a fast-charging station, it takes around 30 minutes to get it to 80 per cent.

And that is where the other, smaller, more coffee-influenced road trip came in.

Read more: Stuff


Comments (1)

  1. Danny Lee


    My recent 200 mile UK trip from South coast to North Norfolk in BMWI3 Range Extender was a first in the new car.

    Two stop plan could easily have been one. Quiet comfortable journey with added benefits of energy costs being almost zero. Home PV top up before departure and use of free Polar card – Chargemaster -free use for first 3 months of car ownership.

    Return home after 600 mile round trip over 5 days cost only £10. Cost incurred just once for return as free stop was not convenient and had to use Genie charge. . At overnight accommodation during Norfolk travel I used slow AC domestic charging. Added bonus for me was carbon savings and avoided transport pollution. The interested generated in EV during our travels from this exceptional EV car was extraordinary.

    Only detractor from this great experience is the longer travel time for slight detours and longer stops to rapid charging points plus need to be light on accelerator to achieve desired range. Here’s hoping governments and big energy suppliers get on soon with wider roll out of bigger and better rapid charging infrastructure!

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